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  • Writer's pictureDr Victor Thompson

“How can I tell if I’m reacting normally to Coronavirus threats or if I’m being a hypochondriac?”

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

This is an interesting question.

At the moment, there is significant threat of Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection to all of us. The consequences for us can be about as bad as it gets – a premature death. Certain groups have been identified as being at even more risk than the general adult population. This is a serious infection and heeding official health advice is key at these times.

We are surrounded by Coronavirus news and warnings – on TV, radio, the web, at work and on the street. The news gets worse every day. It’s understandable that we are all more anxious than we would normally be about our health, the risk of infection and the consequences that being infected might have for us and our loved ones.

The question here is about whether we are reacting normally, to the threat, or are we being a hypochondriac? A hypochondriac is someone with significant anxiety about their health. Someone suffering from hypochondraisis, is a hypochondriac. It is a relatively common anxiety disorder. The key element is that the person is excessively anxious about their health - given their real risks and current symptoms.

At the moment, it is more difficult for everyone - professionals and non-professionals alike - to know what is 'normal' and what is excessive. To help, I have listed 10 characteristics of someone who is likely to be showing health anxiety in these Coronavirus times.

Here are 10 tell-tale signs, that I would lookout for, which would suggest Coronavirus-based Health Anxiety:

  1. I am significantly more anxious about Coronavirus than would be expected, given my general level of health and risk profile (e.g. I’m not in an identified at-risk group)

  2. My preoccupation with my health – specifically Coronavirus – significantly impacts on my ability to go about my usual day-to-day activities (e.g., home, work, social activities) - this is an important critieron, the impact on one's ability to function in daily life isn't mild, it's big

  3. I believe that I am more likely to become infected with Coronavirus, than others would in my situation

  4. I have less faith in the effectiveness of infection reduction measures – e.g. handwashing, hand gels, how well cleaners clean surfaces etc

  5. I expect that if I become infected, that I will get a serious version of infection (not mild)

  6. I often mentally scan and physically check my body for symptoms, interpreting even normal bodily sensations as a sign that I am unwell (with Coronavirus)

  7. I seek reassurance from others that I am well, or on whether my symptoms are serious – my GP, family, friends, websites – but the reassurance and associated reduction in anxiety only lasts for a relatively short period of time

  8. I seek-out more Coronavirus health news than most other people. Or the opposite, I cannot tolerate hearing any Coronavirus news because it makes me too anxious.

  9. My anxiety and worry is specific to my health, rather than more generally, about social situations, confined spaces or other areas

  10. I have a history of excessively worrying about my health, when there was little or no real evidence of me being ill

If you, or someone you know, is excessively anxious about their health – Coronavirus or otherwise – then get in touch with a qualified Psychologist or CBT Therapist to tackle the anxiety. CBT is the treatment of choice for Health Anxiety. This is what I offer - whether in-preson, by video call or telephone. So, wherever you are, help is accessible.

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